The South Portland Planning Board will hold a public hearing Jan. 12 on a controversial proposal for a six-month moratorium on development of liquefied petroleum gas storage and distribution facilities.

In response, NGL Terminal Supply Co. moved the hearing on its proposal to build a propane depot at Rigby Yard to Feb. 9. The project’s review had been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12, but NGL representatives wanted to address the related proposals on separate evenings, said Tex Haeuser, the city’s planning director.

The City Council revived the prospect of a moratorium on Monday, when it voted 4-3 to send the proposal to the Planning Board for a review and recommendation. The moratorium proposal would return to the council for final approval.

However, for a six-month moratorium to be enacted, five of the seven city councilors would have to vote in support. That won’t happen without a reversal by at least one of three councilors who voted against the measure Monday, and councilors have predicted that it likely won’t happen.

NGL is a subsidiary of NGL Energy Partners of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which includes Brunswick-based Downeast Energy. The company must move its propane depot from its current location on Commercial Street in Portland by spring because the state plans to expand the International Marine Terminal. Faced with growing opposition to the Rigby Yard proposal, NGL downsized it to one 24,000-gallon fixed storage tank and queuing track space for 24 rail tank cars.



Supporters of the moratorium say it would give city officials more time to fully consider the potential public health, safety and development impacts of the NGL proposal and possibly address them through amendments to the city’s fire protection and prevention ordinances.

The amendments would require that propane facilities be developed a safe distance from anything considered “critical infrastructure,” including government buildings, schools, hospitals, medical clinics, public utilities and telecommunications. The 245-acre rail yard is near the Cash Corner Fire Station.

Some residents worry about the potential for a catastrophic explosion if NGL built a propane depot at Rigby Yard. Others are concerned about property values. Propane is already offloaded daily at the rail yard and hundreds of fuel and chemical tank cars roll through it each day, officials said.

“I do understand that for the most part propane is safe, however, my concern is that all fuels have the potential to be dangerous when the proper precautions are not taken,” Sandy Warren said in an email to Councilor Brad Fox. “No one wants to live near that type of industry, and those that do have a stigma attached to them and the property values are significantly less.”

In the wake of the council’s vote Monday, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce issued a statement opposing the moratorium and the fire code amendments, calling them “delaying tactics despite clear testimony from the city’s respected former fire chief that such actions are unnecessary to protect the health and safety of local residents.”

The chamber’s board of directors noted that NGL’s existing depot on Portland’s waterfront has operated safely for six decades and today provides fuel to more than 50,000 homes, schools and businesses throughout Greater Portland. NGL is not a chamber member, a company representative said.

“Failure to allow a permitting process to proceed in a predictable, fair way sends a chilling message to any legitimate business interested in operating within or relocating to South Portland,” the chamber’s board wrote. “Businesses of all kinds rely upon transparent, predictable and fair municipal processes to make critical business decisions.”


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